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Palestinian Farmers Face Unique Challenges for Land and Water Rights

July 2012

The Palestinian situation is complex, but underlying that complexity is a basic struggle for land and water. No one knows that more intimately than Palestinian farmers and the people who work with them.

In a recent interview while attending Rio +20 in Brazil, Dr. Taha Refa’ie of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a Grassroots partner, highlighted many of the obstacles Palestinian farmers are facing under the Israeli occupation. Although he acknowledged that peasant farmers the world over are being marginalized, he contrasted those very real struggles with those of Palestinian farmers who live under the whim of a foreign occupier whose goal is to transfer Palestinian land and natural resources to Israelis through settlements. In the meantime, Palestinians live under layers of discriminatory laws that affect where they can live and which roads they can use, among other things. Despite these obstacles, Palestinian farmers remain steadfast in their commitment to the land.

As Dr. Refa’ie explains, across the West Bank and the Gaza strip Palestinian farmers are enmeshed in an existential struggle that affects not only their everyday livelihoods, but also who will control their lands in future generations. Palestinian farmers are systematically being driven off their land by: the Separation Wall and the Buffer Zone that restrict access to agricultural land; Israeli policies that destroy wells and rainwater collection systems used for domestic consumption and agriculture; checkpoints that prevent farmers from accessing local markets while Israeli products flood Palestinian markets; and, settler violence committed against Palestinians and their farms.

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